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How to Play Vinyl Records With a Needle

Updated April 17, 2017

Despite digital advancements in the home stereo markets, vinyl record players have not been rendered obsolete in 2010 unlike other forms of home audio, such as Betamax and cassette tapes. In fact, vinyl record players have made somewhat of a resurgence in recent years and have been popularised by amateur and professional DJs, devoted vinyl collectors and casual music fans alike.

Whether you are a playing vinyl records for home entertainment or practicing your beat matching and mixing as a DJ, your vinyl records won't make a sound without a turntable plinth, platter, cartridge and, perhaps most importantly, a needle. It is the needle which creates sound, vibrating with the grooves on a record to create the necessary surge of electricity which powers the turntable's audio output.

Place a spacer over the centre of the turntable if you are playing a single--i.e., records which include a low number of songs (1 to 4). These records are called 45s. The spacer is a 2- to 3-mm-thick circular piece of plastic which fits over the spindle (the small vertical rod in the centre of the turntable) and raises the inner part of the 45 record off the turntable.

Place your vinyl record on the turntable, with the side you wish to listen to facing upwards.

Turn your turntable and receiver on, ensuring the receiver's "Selector" button (if it has one) is set to "Phono."

Select your vinyl record's revolution speed. Larger records like EPs and albums play using a speed of 33 1/3rpm whereas smaller records like singles play using a speed of 45rpm. If your turntable has a built-in pitch controller, this step is not required.

Place the turntable's tonearm so it is hovering over the edge of the record.

Press down the power button if your turntable doesn't begin to spin automatically. This will start your turntable spinning.

Lower the tonearm and place the needle in a groove imprinted in to the record's edge. It is recommended to place the needle in a groove which is in the darker section of the record's edge as the groove is at its widest here. The record should begin to play after a short delay.

Tip

Always make sure your turntable, record, tonearm and needle are clean before playing records. This will enhance the sound quality and minimise the risk of your music skipping or stuttering. If your needle continuously slips off the vinyl record, place it farther from the record's edge.

Warning

Always take great care when handling your tonearm and needle as they are fragile items and can break easily.

Things You'll Need

  • Turntable
  • Vinyl record
  • Spacer
  • Receiver
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About the Author

Christopher Tebbutt started writing professionally in 2004. He's had content published on both the "Guardian" and "TimeOut" magazine's websites, amongst others. He has written for internationally renowned brands such as Burberry, Boots and Party Gaming. He has also worked for journalists within the BBC, Reuters and BSkyB as a researcher. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in politics and history from Nottingham Trent University.